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Gas Wars in the Mediterranean

Gas Wars in the Mediterranean 

The unexpected alliance between Turkey and Libya is a geopolitical earthquake that changes the balance of power in the eastern Mediterranean and across the Middle East. Turkey’s audacious move has enraged its rivals in the region and cleared the way for a dramatic escalation in the 9 year-long Libyan civil war. It has also forced leaders in Europe and Washington to decide how they will counter Turkey’s plan to defend the U.N-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), and to extend its maritime borders from Europe to Africa basically creating “a water corridor through the eastern Mediterranean linking the coasts of Turkey and Libya.” Leaders in Ankara believe that the agreement “is a major coup in energy geopolitics” that helps defend Turkey’s “sovereign rights against the gatekeepers of the regional status quo.” But Turkey’s rivals strongly disagree. They see the deal as a naked power grab that undermines their ability to transport natural gas from the East Mediterranean to Europe without crossing Turkish waters. In any event, the Turkey-Libya agreement has set the stage for a broader conflict that will unavoidably involve Egypt, Israel, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Europe, Russia and the United States. All parties appear to have abandoned diplomatic channels altogether and are, instead, preparing for war.

On November 27, Turkey and Libya signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that commits Turkey to providing military assistance to Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA). The MoU also redraws Turkey’s maritime boundaries in a way that dramatically impacts the transport of gas from the East Mediterranean to Europe. Israel is particularly worried that this new deal will undermine its plans for a 1,900-kilometer EastMed pipeline connecting the Leviathan gas field, off the coast of Israel, to the EU. YNET News summarized Israel’s concerns in an ominously titled article: “Turkey’s maneuver could block Israel’s access to the sea”. Here’s an excerpt:

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Haftar Blocks All Libyan Oil Exports Day Before Berlin Peace Conference

Haftar Blocks All Libyan Oil Exports Day Before Berlin Peace Conference

Given Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar has over the past two years captured the majority of the oil and gas rich country’s energy producing regions, he’s now playing his biggest card yet to leverage international peace talks in his favor amid a final push for his Libyan National Army (LNA) forces to take Tripoli. 

Bloomberg reports Saturday that the Benghazi-based ‘rebel’ general has now “blocked oil exports at ports under his control, slashing output by more than half and posing a potential setback for an international conference on Sunday that aims to broker an end to a civil war in the OPEC nation.”

Image source: AP via Oilandgaspeople.com

The major talks Sunday are due to be held in Berlin, and a who’s who of external backers of each side of the conflict will be in attendance, including Putin, Erdogan, France’s Macron, and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as well as the Italian prime minister and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The Berlin conference comes after a failed deal to establish a ceasefire in Moscow earlier in the week, when Haftar left the city after the head of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, Fayez al-Sarraj, actually signed the agreement. Haftar also reportedly secretly scuttled to different Mediterranean capitals, including Athens, in a bid to gain recognition as legitimate leader on the ground.

Haftar’s drastic move to block oil exports is likely aimed at torpedoing the Berlin meeting before it even starts, given he’s proven intransigent in the face of international pressure for him to halt the ongoing Tripoli offensive — even during the talks hosted by one of his key political backers Vladimir Putin. 

Libya’s National Oil Corp. (NOC) has now declared Force Majeure, per Bloomberg:

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Greece To Help Tripoli ‘Block Turkish Ships’ As Libyan War Spills Into Mediterranean

Greece To Help Tripoli ‘Block Turkish Ships’ As Libyan War Spills Into Mediterranean

The years-long war for post-Gaddafi Libya now threatens to spill over into the Mediterranean as Turkey and Greece line up on either side of the conflict. Each side is now threatening the others’ allied ships in southern waters after a controversial maritime deal expanded Turkish claims off Libya’s coast.

On Thursday Benghazi-based General Kalifa Haftar declared his Libyan National Army has begun its “final decisive battle” to wrest control of the capital of Tripoli from the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). 

“Zero hour has come for the broad and total assault expected by every free and honest Libyan,” Haftar said in a televised address, reports Al Jazeera. “Today, we announce the decisive battle and the advancement towards the heart of the capital to set it free… advance now our heroes.” Beginning eight months ago Haftar launched a siege of Tripoli, which has been stalled in recent months.

Drilling vessel Yavuz is escorted by a Turkish navy frigate in the Eastern Mediterranean off Cyprus, via Daily Sabah.

Turkey has been the closest military supporter to Tripoli’s GNA, even recently signing a controversial maritime agreement, after providing heavy weaponry to repel Haftar’s assault. Last summer the LNA even attacked Turkish naval ships, in what’s an ongoing declared war with any Turkish vessel or aircraft. This “proxy war” element is now threatening to involve Greece. 

Days ago Erdogan confirmed his country signed a bilateral memorandum, finalized on Nov. 27, which would allow Turkish forces to enter Libyan territory or waters at the request of the GNA authorities.

“With this new agreement between Turkey and Libya, we can hold joint exploration operations in these exclusive economic zones that we determined,” Erdogan said. The agreement established a continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) boundary line of 18.6 nautical miles between the two countries.

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“Libya Under Turkish Invasion”: Haftar Releases Hostages But Vows War On Turkish Planes, Vessels

“Libya Under Turkish Invasion”: Haftar Releases Hostages But Vows War On Turkish Planes, Vessels

We’ve noted before that Libya’s new civil war has increasingly come out in the open as in reality an international proxy war, with even the White House in the past months “switching” support from the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli to the renegade General Khalifa Haftar, whose LNA forces have for months laid siege to the capital in an attempt to wrest the country from GNA authority.

And to nobody’s surprise, advanced American-made anti-tank missiles believed supplied by the UAE have recently been found among Haftar’s weapons stockpiles. All of this makes Gen. Haftar’s latest “declaration of war” on Turkey more interesting. Over the weekend the LNA threatened to shoot down Turkish airplanes found in Libyan air space and to destroy Turkish ships off the Libyan coast, in response to Turkish military support to GNA forces in Tripoli, which resulted in a significant setback for pro-Haftar militants.

Front line fighting near Tripoli, via the BBC

Haftar’s rebel force had claimed Libya is “under Turkish invasion” and that it would act against any Turkish threat, including Turkish flagged vessels found in Libyan territorial waters. 

Over the weekend Turkey threatened to attack Haftar’s forces in eastern Libya directly as a “legitimate target” if the LNA failed to release six Turkish citizens under its detention. Haftar had previously declared intent to detain all Turkish nationals in Libya, but walked back the threat while additionally releasing the six Turkish hostages on Monday. 

Ankara’s threat of attack appeared to have worked, according to Al Jazeera: “The spokesman of Haftar’s forces, Colonel Ahmed Masmari, earlier said they were detaining all Turkish nationals in Libya. But last night [Sunday], he retreated saying he does not have any knowledge of the detention of the Turkish nationals.” The Turkish Foreign Ministry has confirmed the Turkish nationals’ release on Monday. 

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16 Years After Iraq, the US Has Become a Nation of Passive Neocons 

ANTI WAR PROTEST

NEO-CONMEN 

16 Years After Iraq, the US Has Become a Nation of Passive Neocons 

After Iraq, the neocons began waging another war, one for America’s soul.

WASHINGTON (Opinion) — Sixteen years have passed and the memory of the Iraq War is distant for many, save for the millions of people — Iraqi and American alike — who saw their lives destroyed by one of the greatest lies ever sold to the American public. 

Yet, while plenty of Americans sleep easy thinking that such an atrocity as the invasion and occupation of Iraq could never happen again, the U.S. government has continuously been involved in many smaller, equally disastrous wars — both seen and unseen — largely thanks to the fact that those who brought us the Iraq War remain both respected and still present in the halls of power.

Indeed, the only thing the domestic outrage over the Iraq War seemed to accomplish has been a massive effort waged by the government and the corporate elite to engineer a public that doesn’t complain and doesn’t care when their government meddles or invades another country. 

For many Americans today, much like the war itself, the outrage over the Iraq War is a distant memory and comparable outrage has failed to emerge over any other U.S. government crime committed or contemplated on a similar scale — whether it be the “regime change” invasion of Libya, the ongoing genocide in Yemen, or in response to crimes the government is now setting up

Our forgetfulness has informed our silence and our silence is our complicity in the crimes — past and present — orchestrated by the neocons, who never left government after Iraq but instead rebranded themselves and helped to culturally engineer our passivity. As a consequence, we have again been hoodwinked by the neocons, who have transformed America in their image, creating a nation of neocon enablers, a nation of passive neocons.

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Et Tu, RT? Amplifying Western Disinformation on Rwanda

Et Tu, RT? Amplifying Western Disinformation on Rwanda

The great lie about the Rwandan bloodbath opened the door to a far larger genocide in Congo and helped justify U.S. military interventions in Libya and Syria, argues Ann Garrison.


During a recent campaign event, Florida Senator Bill Nelson said, “That story of Rwanda is very instructive to us because when a place gets so tribal that the two tribes won’t have anything to do with each other, and that jealousy turns into hate—we saw what happened to the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda, it turned into a genocide. A million people hacked to death within a few months. And we have got to watch what’s happening here.”

That got a lot of headlines even though U.S. ethnicity is binary only if seen as white vs. everybody else. Whatever Sen. Nelson meant, those who do see it that way have certainly gained prominence since Trump took the White House.

That was a newly minted reference to the Rwandan genocide in U.S. discourse, however. Rwanda is most often remembered in urgent calls for “humanitarian intervention,” a.k.a. war, to stop another genocide. We’re told that the U.S. failed to stop Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, so we’re now obliged to “intervene” anytime and anywhere another genocide is underway. That’s why, we’re falsely told, the U.S. and its NATO allies had to bomb Libya into ongoing chaos in 2011. That’s why Lockheed Martin had to step up production of cruise missiles to drop on Syria. That’s why Sens. Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, both 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, became initial co-sponsors of an Orwellian bill to “enhance” our government’s ability to “prevent genocide and mass atrocities” with military force: Senate Bill 1158, the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2018.

Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda. (Chatham House / CC BY 2.0)

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President Trump’s Iran Policy – Is It ‘Normal’?

President Trump’s Iran Policy – Is It ‘Normal’?

It’s not often that US Government officials are honest when they talk about our foreign policy. The unprovoked 2003 attack on Iraq was called a “liberation.” The 2011 US-led destruction of Libya was a “humanitarian intervention.” And so on.

So, in a way, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was refreshingly honest last week when, speaking about newly-imposed US sanctions, he told the BBC that the Iranian leadership “has to make a decision that they want their people to eat.” It was an honest admission that new US sanctions are designed to starve Iranians unless the Iranian leadership accepts US demands.

His statement also reveals the lengths to which the neocons are willing to go to get their “regime change” in Iran. Just like then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said it was “worth it” that half a million Iraqi children died because of our sanctions on that country, Pompeo is letting us know that a few million dead Iranians is also “worth it” if the government in Tehran can be overthrown.

The US Secretary of State has demanded that Iran “act like a normal country” or the US would continue its pressure until Iran’s economy crumbles. How twisted is US foreign policy that Washington considers it “normal” to impose sanctions specifically designed to make life miserable – or worse – for civilians!

Is it normal to threaten millions of people with starvation if their leaders refuse to bow down to US demands? Is the neoconservative obsession with regime change “normal” behavior? Is training and arming al-Qaeda in Syria to overthrow Assad “normal” behavior? If so, then perhaps Washington’s neocons have a point. As Iran is not imposing sanctions, is not invading its neighbors, is not threatening to starve millions of Americans unless Washington is “regime-changed,” perhaps Iran is not acting “normal.”

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The Geopolitics of Energy

The Geopolitics of Energy

The Geopolitics of Energy

Some brief notes on the situation around the world with respect to the influence that energy has on political developments.

1. The Middle East

The Middle East continues to play a major role in the global energy scene. Notwithstanding changes that have occurred in the political situation of many countries in the area — i.e., Libya, Iraq, Qatar, and Iran — the Middle East still remains one of the most important providers of oil and natural gas in the world. This is why many global powers, namely the United States, China, and Russia, keep a close eye on developments there. Events in Iraq, Iran, and on the Arabian peninsula continue to ring alarm bells in major world capitals, since whatever happens there has severe repercussions on the price of energy. This in turn affects the economic welfare of many parts of the world and puts huge strains on the diplomatic efforts of major countries to design policies to deal with the resulting problems.

The antagonism between Saudi Arabia and Iran sets off a variety of political reverberations affecting the countries of the Persian Gulf, unsettling the situation between Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, and entangling Russia and the United States in the ensuring imbroglio.

The countries of North Africa, Egypt, and of course Israel/Palestine are part of the same puzzle that mixes energy and diplomacy at every step of the way.

2. The Russian Federation

Russia plays a crucial role in the politics of global energy. Russia is one of the world’s most important exporters of oil and natural gas. This means that apart from playing a pivotal role in the formation of world energy prices, its presence, behaviour, and diplomatic manoeuvring is of paramount importance when it comes to energy security and the possibility of preventing or causing peripheral animosities or establishing peace and stability.

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Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya

Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya

Photo by Bernd.Brincken | CC BY 2.0

The summit meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the military alliance that is expanding its deployments of troops, combat and surveillance aircraft and missile ships around Russia’s borders, took place on July 11-12 and was a farce, with Trump behaving in his usual way, insulting individuals and nations with characteristic vulgarity.

Before the jamboree, NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg (one of those selected for a Trumpian harangue), recounted in a speech on 21 June that “NATO has totally transformed our presence in Afghanistan from a big combat operation with more than 100,000 to now 16,000 troops conducting training, assisting and advising.”  But then he had a bit of a rethink when he was asked a question about whether NATO had learnt any lessons that might make it think about “intervening in the future.” To give him his due, Stoltenberg replied that he thought “one of the lessons we have learned from Iraq, from Afghanistan, from Libya, is that military intervention is not always solving all problems.”

He is absolutely right about that, because the US-NATO military interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have been catastrophic.

It is intriguing that NATO’s secretary general can at last admit that military muscle doesn’t solve every problem, but he did not expand on the subject of Libya, which unhappy country was destroyed by US-NATO military intervention in 2011, and it is interesting to reflect on that particular NATO debacle, because it led directly to expansion of the Islamic State terrorist group, a prolonged civil war, a vast number of deaths, and hideous suffering by desperate refugees trying to flee from Libya across the Mediterranean.

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Oil Prices Crash As Libya Resumes Production

Oil Prices Crash As Libya Resumes Production

oil rig

Oil prices fell sharply on Wednesday on news that Libya was suddenly set to restore hundreds of thousands of barrels per day, and the U.S. struck a softer line on Iran sanctions.

Brent sank more than 6 percent during midday trading on Wednesday, as Libya’s National Oil Corp. (NOC) said that it would lift the force majeure on several major export terminals and resume shipments of oil.

The standoff with General Khalid Haftar appeared to be on its way to some sort of resolution, with the militia handing the ports back over to the internationally-recognized NOC in Tripoli. As is always the case with Libya, the situation is fluid, and any return of production does not come with a guarantee that it will be sustained.

But for now, some 700,000 bpd could swiftly come back online. The outage in Libya had helped drive up oil prices over the past few weeks, fueling speculation that Saudi Arabia would need to burn through much of its spare capacity in order to keep the market well-supplied. The timing was also crucial: Libya’s outage was unexpected, and it came just as Canada temporarily lost 350,000 bpd and the expected interruptions from Iran were revised higher due to a hardline from the U.S. on sanctions.

“The lifting of force majeure at all the Libyan ports will certainly come as relief from a supply perspective, but it remains to be seen how quickly exports can return to normal,” Harry Tchilinguirian, head of oil strategy at BNP Paribas, told Reuters Global Oil Forum.

Another factor pushing down oil prices midweek were the comments from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who seemed to soften America’s position as it relates to how severely it would treat countries buying Iranian oil.

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America Bombs, Europe Gets the Refugees. That’s Evil

America Bombs, Europe Gets the Refugees. That’s Evil

America Bombs, Europe Gets the Refugees. That’s Evil

The US Government (with France and a few other US allies) bombs Libya, Syria, etc.; and the US regime refuses to accept any of the resulting refugees — the burdens from which are now breaking the EU, and the EU is sinking in economic competition against America’s international corporations. America’s corporations remain blithely unscathed by not only the refugees that are breaking up the EU, but also by the EU’s economic sanctions against Russia, Iran, and other allies of governments that the US regime is trying to overthrow in its constant invasions and coups. The US Government makes proclamations such as “Assad must go!” — but by what right is the US Government involved, at all, in determining whom the leaders in Syria will be? Syria never invaded the US In fact, Syria never invaded anywhere (except, maybe, Israel, in order to respond against Israel’s invasions). Furthermore, all polling, even by Western pollsters, shows that Bashar al-Assad would easily win any free and fair election in Syria. The US Government claims to support democracy, but it does the exact opposite whenever they want to get rid of a Government that is determined to protect that nation’s sovereignty over its own national territory, instead of to yield it to the US regime, or to any other foreigners. The US regime has virtually destroyed the United Nations.

The US regime even refuses to provide restitution to Syria for its bombings, and for its arming and training of the jihadists — the fundamentalist Sunni mercenaries recruited from around the world — who are the US regime’s “boots on the ground” trying to overthrow Syria’s Government. Al Qaeda has led the dozens of jihadist groups that have served as the US regime’s “boots on the ground” to overthrow Assad, but Al Qaeda is good enough to serve the purpose, in the US regime’s view of things.

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Outrage

Paul Gauguin Why are you angry? 1896

Yes, you have every right to be outraged at the disgraceful treatment of children on America’s borders. But that does not give you the right to NOT be outraged by what America has done and is today still doing to children in, just to name a few places, Syria, Libya and Yemen. Be outraged, but don’t make it an echo chamber issue. Because if you do, you, too, are in a cage.

So if you see the wives of former presidents speak out about the child separation policies, ask yourself where they get the moral authority to speak out on such issues, after their husbands have bombed the crap out of many countries, killing many many children in the process. And don’t let’s get started about Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State.

Presently in Yemen, 20 million people depend on humanitarian aid, and the US are helping Saudi Arabia et al bomb the only port left through which that aid can reach them, to smithereens. 8.5 million Yemenis are already starving, and some 3 million of them are children. Where is your outrage over that?

Where is the outrage over the American and international treatment of Julian Assange, who has been in the Ecuador embassy in London for six years today? Where is it?

Don’t get coaxed into selective outrage by your news media, who like nothing better than to tell you what to be outraged by, and what not. If you allow that to happen, you have lost your freedom and your independence. Ask why they tell you a certain story at the moment they tell it. Ask why they tell it the way they do.

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Is US Bellicosity Backfiring?

Is US Bellicosity Backfiring?

Is US Bellicosity Backfiring?

U.S. threats to crush Iran and North Korea may yet work, but as of now neither Tehran nor Pyongyang appears to be intimidated.

Repeated references by NSC adviser John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence to the “Libya model” for denuclearization of North Korea just helped sink the Singapore summit of President Trump and Kim Jong Un. To North Korea, the Libya model means the overthrow and murder of Libya strongman Col. Gadhafi, after he surrendered his WMD.

Wednesday, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui exploded at Pence’s invocation of Libya: “Vice-President Pence has made unbridled and impudent remarks that North Korea might end like Libya … I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks.

“Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States.”

Yesterday, Trump canceled the Singapore summit.

Earlier this week at the Heritage Foundation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out our Plan B for Iran in a speech that called to mind Prussian Field Marshal Karl Von Moltke.

Among Pompeo’s demands: Iran must end all support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, and Hamas in Gaza, withdraw all forces under Iranian command in Syria, and disarm its Shiite militia in Iraq.

Iran must confess its past lies about a nuclear weapons program, and account publicly for all such activity back into the 20th century.

Iran must halt all enrichment of uranium, swear never to produce plutonium, shut down its heavy water reactor, open up its military bases to inspection to prove it has no secret nuclear program, and stop testing ballistic missiles.

And unless Iran submits, she will be strangled economically.

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Extreme Weather Causes Production Outages In Libya

Extreme Weather Causes Production Outages In Libya

Rig

A Libyan oil company has had to significantly reduce oil production at its fields because the hot weather has caused several turbines to stop working. The company is Agoco, a unit of the national Oil Corporation, and the decline in production amounted to some 120,000 bpd, sources wishing to remain unnamed told Bloomberg.

This is only the latest production outage in the troubled North African country that has made exemplary efforts to revive its oil production after the NOC regained control over the export terminals and the fields, and settled its disputes with the Petroleum Facilities Guard. It is also the least significant one, as according to the sources, production in Agoco’s fields will return to normal in a few days.

The outage does, however, highlight the uncertainty of Libyan supply, which has been hovering around 1 million barrels daily for over a year, but has failed to move above this level—and not because Libyan is an OPEC member and as such is constrained by a production quota. It is because the political situation in the country is still so unstable that virtually any group with a grudge against the government—or another group—can block a pipeline or attack any piece of infrastructure and cause a production outage.

A few days ago, for example, protesters blocked the entrance to the Ragouba field, which produces around 5,000 bpd, so tanker trucks could not load crude. These particular protesters demanded social and health care benefits and lifted the blockade when the operator of the field promised to grant these.

Last month, a militant group attacked the pipeline feeding crude from the Waha oil field to the Es Sider export terminal, costing the field operators around 80,000 bpd in lost production. This was the second attack on this pipeline in five months. Waha produces 300,000 bpd, on par with Libya’s largest field, El Sharara, which has also been the target of several attacks.

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The Skripal Case Is Being Pushed Down The Memory Hole With Libya And Aleppo

The Skripal Case Is Being Pushed Down The Memory Hole With Libya And Aleppo

On the fourth of March, in the sleepy British cathedral town of Salisbury, an ex-spy named Sergei Skripal was poisoned by an assassin with the most deadly nerve agent known to man.

The Russian government was immediately blamed by a shocked and outraged world. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson assured the people of Great Britain that “There’s no doubt” that Moscow was responsible. In a large and sudden leap forward in cold war escalations, Russian diplomats were thrown out of countries all around the globe, including my own Australia, in a show of solidarity with the United Kingdom. It was the largest collective ejection of Russian diplomats in history.

Two months after his earth-shattering assassination, as the world stared spellbound at the weekend’s immensely popular PR spectacle of a royal wedding, Sergei Skripal was quietly discharged from the hospital he’d been staying at. The BBC reports that he is walking and approaching complete recovery.

Wait a second. Haven’t I seen this Python skit before?

So to recap, an ex-spy who had been retired and strategically irrelevant for years was reportedly poisoned by the Kremlin with Novichok, a scary Russian-sounding word which refers to a group of extremely deadly and fast-acting nerve agents that start shutting down the body’s muscles and respiratory system within 30 seconds to two minutes. Except in the case of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia it was several hours with a leisurely stroll, a meal, and beers in between.

The poison was placed in Yulia Skripal’s suitcase. Actually no, they got that wrong, it was the air vents in their car. Wait, no, that doesn’t work either. Maybe it was administered via weaponized miniature drone! Wait, no, it was the family’s car door handle. Actually, scratch that, it was the front door of the house. Definitely the front door of the house. We’re absolutely sure.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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